The Atlantic is two things every legacy publishing company would like to be: profitable and more reliant on digital advertising revenues than on print. But while that may have been good enough in 2012, for 2013 the magazine has a new goal: to get more readers paying, in some form, for digital-only access to its journalism.
Coinciding with the highly-publicized news of Andrew Sullivan's exodus from The Daily Beast, The Atlantic has vaguely shared its intentions to dabble with a variety of digital publishing models in the coming year.
The Atlantic has undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent years, the shift fueled by the increasing acceptability of long-form, intelligent commentary online. Having only left a paywall model two years ago, The Atlantic is evidently hoping to capitalize upon a mobile-driven landscape, whilst also gleaning higher revenue from its larger audience.
The move, more than anything else, demonstrates a newfound sense of optimism for the sustainability of digital publishing. Unlike several years ago, publishers are no longer blindly grappling for some semblance of profitability from an anarchic environment of freely accessible content. Instead, coaxed by the perceived success of The New York Times in the space, publishers both old and new are emerging with forward-thinking, novel, and sometimes endearing methods for financial sustainability and long-term success.
The writing has been on the wall for a long time, and it appears that 2013 is going to be characterized largely by a widespread shift in digital publishing. Readers worldwide have expressed their discontent with the bloated and outmoded methods employed by Condé Nast, instead praising publications such as The Atlantic and, to a far lesser extent, the minimalism of The Magazine.
The latter half of 2012 saw a rapid uptick in the attention paid toward publishing and I suspect it's now time for the publishers to begin showing their hands for the coming year. Although the specifics of The Atlantic's intended experiments are unclear, I cannot help but feel optimistic for the shifting state of the industry.
As a writer, we're on the precipice of a belated and well-needed disruption of publishing. As a businessperson, we're on the cusp of an overdue improvement in the economics of writing.
In both lights, it's an exciting time for the industry and I look forward expectantly for some altogether new and different methods toward success.